Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Blog

Monday, November 10, 2014

Injured While On Medicare: What Happens Now?

When you are injured in an accident due to the negligent, reckless or willful conduct of another, you may be entitled to receive a settlement.  Often times, these settlements are paid out by insurance companies.  Unfortunately, if you are a Medicare beneficiary, you may have to forfeit some or all of the settlement you receive.

Medicare is federally provided health insurance.  Those that are 65 years or older and some younger people with qualifying conditions have the option to be covered by this type of insurance.  If you are injured in an accident, Medicare may cover some of the costs of your medical treatment.  But, pursuant to the Medicare Secondary Payer laws, Medicare does not have to pay for medical expenses if an enrollee is receiving a settlement or other award from an insurance company as a result of their injuries.   Medicare can ask to be reimbursed for the money it paid out for medical expenses.

Generally, if you are a Medicaid enrollee, are injured in an accident and make a claim against a defendant that has liability insurance, you must report the case to Medicare.  Once a case is reported to Medicare and they determine that they may be able to recover any of the money they laid out for medical bills, they will send you a Rights and Responsibilities letter outlining the process.  You will then usually receive a Conditional Payment Letter within approximately two months.   This letter will detail all of the claims they paid and expect to be reimbursed for once you receive a settlement.  It is important to note that the amount listed on the letter is usually not the final amount.  These letters are updated and reissued every 90 days and all of the claims on the letter may not be related to the accident.  Therefore, you must review the claims to determine which need to be deleted.  Once you do this, you can contact Medicare using the instructions included in the letter to have the amount updated.  Once you receive a settlement, you must, again, let Medicare know.  They will then issue a Demand Letter with a final amount due and the date by which payment must be submitted.

If you were injured while receiving Medicare benefits and have filed a lawsuit, you might find yourself faced with a Conditional Payment Letter.  Be sure to show this letter to your attorney as soon as possible.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Injured By A Product: Do You Have A Claim?

Most of the items we use on a daily basis are manufactured by a business operating somewhere in the world.  Think about it:  the vacuum cleaner, water heater, cell phone, the things we take for granted every day.  What if the water heater malfunctioned and you were burned or the vacuum cleaner exploded while you were using it.  If these accidents were due to a defect in the product, you might be entitled to compensation.

The elements for a products liability claim are relatively simple but can be difficult to prove.  Generally, in order to have a successful claim based on a defective product, the product must be faulty in one of three ways: manufacturing, design or marketing.  A manufacturing defect is one that occurs during production of the product.  A defect in design is one that exists in all of the products.  That is, something about the product makes it inherently dangerous.  A marketing defect exists when the product is dangerous in some way and a party involved in the manufacturing or sale failed to provide sufficient instructions or warnings to prevent people from being injured.  It takes research and often experts to discover a defect and an experienced personal injury attorney should be utilized in this process.

The second element in a products liability case is injury.  Someone must have been injured or sustained a loss in order to bring a products liability action.  They must also prove that the defect was the cause of the injury.   Proving that the defect was the cause of the injury can be difficult in products liability cases and it takes someone knowledgeable in the field to be successful.

In addition, in order to have a valid products liability claim the product must have been being used in the way it was intended used or in a manner that was foreseeable.  For example, a person cannot use the clothing iron to flat iron their hair and then claim that they were burned.  The clothing iron was not intended to be used this way and this would cause the products liability action to fail.

In the event that a person is injured and they have satisfied all of the other requirements for a products liability action, they have a valid claim.  Bear in mind that it is often difficult to determine if all of the elements were met until you consult with a seasoned attorney.  Contact us for a free consultation to discuss the specifics of your case. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Difference between Defamation, Libel and Slander

If you have worked hard to build and maintain a good reputation, either personally or in a business context, you likely understand the affects that damage to this reputation can have.  If someone does engage in conduct that is damaging to your reputation, tort law provides an avenue for you to take action: a lawsuit for defamation.

Defamation can arise in various forms and be claimed by an individual, business or other entity.  While defamation is the term encompassing all types of statements that cause injury to one’s reputation, you can be defamed in a number of ways. Libel is defamation that occurs in a written format.  For example, statements written in an article or book that are damaging to one’s reputation constitute libel.  With the ever expanding use of the internet, written statements in website content, social media and even chats are considered libelous if they are likely to cause injury.  Slander is defamation done orally.  It is important not to underestimate the power of the spoken word when it comes to reputation and anyone injured by this type of speech may have an action.

Although defamation can be committed in a few different ways, the elements of each action are usually the same.  In order to have a successful claim for defamation, libel or slander, it must be proven that a false statement was made.  It must also be proven that the maker of the statement had some level of intent, at the very least negligence.  This means that a statement made either with intent to cause injury, knowledge of the injury that could result or without the appropriate amount of care, can result in a claim for defamation.  The statement must also have been published in some way to at least one other person and there must be proof of damages.  You will likely not be able to determine if all of these elements are satisfied and it is therefore important to consult with an attorney knowledgeable in the field to find out whether you have a claim.  Contact us today for a consultation.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Can You Sue if You Signed A Liability Waiver?

You might be asked to sign a liability waiver before engaging in a recreational activity.  For some endeavors that seem naturally dangerous, this will come as no surprise.  But, in day to day life, you might come in to contact with liability waivers on a more frequent basis than you expect.  You might be asked to sign a liability waiver when engaging in certain sports, such as skiing, watching certain live sporting events and even when signing up for a gym membership.  While signing the waiver is often a prerequisite to participation, you should know that these agreements are not always enforced from a legal standpoint.   Therefore, if you or your loved one is injured after signing one you still have a chance of recovering for your injuries. 

 A liability waiver is an agreement between two parties, wherein one party agrees to release another party from responsibility should the first party suffer some injury at the second party’s fault.  In the context of everyday recreational activities, the participating party is assuming the risk of injury from the hosting party and in some cases, giving up their right to sue altogether.  One type of contract that might qualify as a liability waiver is a contract of adhesion.  A contract of adhesion is a boilerplate form that is presented to a party who has no opportunity to negotiate the terms.  An example of this type of agreement is a preprinted waiver on the back of a receipt.

Although these agreements are very common, they can be invalidated based on certain factors.  Each state has a different take on liability waivers, and therefore the law varies greatly across the country.  Some state courts strictly enforce these agreements while others seem to disfavor them.  Most courts look at a combination of factors including how the document was drafted and the circumstances surrounding its signing.  Courts will inquire as to the nature of the document.  They favor documents that are clear and unambiguous and that include terms that a reasonable person would understand.  They also look at whether the waiver was obvious or evident.  Was the waiver presented to the party or was it hidden on the back of a ticket stub?  Courts favor an obvious approach.  As far as the circumstances surrounding the signing of the agreement, the courts will try to discover whether it was entered into voluntarily.  If someone was forced to enter into the agreement, it will likely not be upheld.  Lastly, any agreement that violates public policy in some way will usually be invalidated by a court. 

If you signed a liability waiver, but were subsequently injured, and want to know if you have a chance to recover in a personal injury action, contact us today for a case evaluation today. 


Monday, September 22, 2014

Common Injuries in Automobile Accidents

If you have been involved in an automobile accident, you may be seriously injured and not even realize it. At least, not immediately. Serious injury can occur even in slow or low-impact collisions, and accidents which cause no damage to the vehicle. For example, accident victims can suffer from “whiplash” in collisions involving a sudden change in vehicle speed of just 2.5 miles per hour.    

Motor vehicle collision injuries range from minor cuts and scrapes to catastrophic, life-ending trauma.  Bleeding, broken bones or bruising are obvious indications that a driver or passenger has sustained an injury and needs treatment. However, there are also less-obvious injuries that are much more difficult to diagnose and treat, including myofascial injury (“whiplash”) and mild traumatic brain injury.

“Whiplash” is one of the most common auto accident injuries. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recognizes whiplash as “a range of neck injuries related to sudden distortions of the neck that commonly occur in rear-end crashes.” Specifically, this term may refer to a cervical strain, cervical sprain or hyperextension injury. Any sudden impact, even at very low speeds, can cause a whiplash injury to the ligaments, muscles and vertebrae in the neck or back, although the damage may not become apparent for several hours or days. A whiplash injury can be mild, such as a muscle strain, or more severe, including nerve or disc damage, ruptured ligaments or vertebrae fractures.

Treatments for whiplash can include ice, anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen), physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, muscle relaxants, massage therapy, or immobilization of the neck or back with a cervical collar or brace. In cases involving severe muscle or ligament damage, cervical traction or surgery may be required. Recovery time for a whiplash injury is typically between a few weeks and three months. Untreated whiplash victims can suffer lasting effects, including chronic pain, an increased susceptibility to future neck or back injuries and posture problems.

Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) is a high-level concussion, defined by the Brain Injury Association of America as a “physical injury to the brain that causes a disruption of normal functioning.” MTBI involves a loss of consciousness or loss of memory before or after the accident. There are a wide range of MTBI injuries, from a temporary disruption of normal brain activity to permanent brain changes that affect how a person functions physically, mentally, emotionally and behaviorally. Early MTBI symptoms can include mild symptoms, such as headache, dizziness or confusion. In later stages, MTBI sufferers can face difficulty concentrating, irritability, anxiety, depression, fatigue or a quick temper. These later stage symptoms can be difficult to attribute to the auto accident because they only become apparent long after the injury was sustained.

In the immediate aftermath of an accident, the body’s natural physiological responses often mask the soft-tissue injuries that can occur. But once your body has had a chance to relax, you may experience a number of symptoms related to the accident, including neck and back pain, limited range of motion, muscle spasms, headaches, dizziness, difficulty maintaining balance or equilibrium, shooting pains, muscle soreness, numbness or tingling in the extremities, emotional and behavioral disturbances, or memory and concentration difficulties.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Role of Distracted Driving in Personal Injury Cases

Distracted driving has emerged as a disturbing trend that poses a serious threat not only to preoccupied drivers, but to other motorists on the roadways. Accidents caused by this unsafe practice have seen a major uptick in recent years due to the widespread use of smart phones to text and post to social media platforms, such as Instagram and Twitter, while driving. Although drivers of all ages may be guilty of driving while distracted, studies have found that teenage drivers are especially tempted to use their phone to snap photos or text from the driver's seat.

Personal injury lawsuits on the basis of distracted driving are becoming more prevalent. A wrongful-death suit against taxi-alternative company Uber cites distracted driving as the cause of a collision that killed a 6-year-old girl and injured her mother and brother while they were crossing the street on New Year's Eve in California. Allegedly, the Uber driver was logged into the company's smart phone app, waiting to receive and accept a ride request, when his SUV collided with the girl and her family. Although this case doesn't involve a teenage driver, it demonstrates how (alleged) smart phone use while driving can have horrifying consequences.

More than 3,300 fatalities occur each year as a result of distracted driving, according to the Department of Transportation and, the official US website dedicated to distracted driving. Drivers are twice as likely to crash if they're texting while driving than if they were paying attention.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers, with cell phone use being reported in 18 percent of all distraction-related fatalities in America. These scary statistics have led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to create an campaign against distracted driving aimed at young adults.

If you have teenaged children or you just happen to be up on current trends, you'll know that many young people use their cell phones to take "selfies", a nickname for self-portraits. It's come to the attention of law enforcement and safety advocates that teens are taking selfies and posting to social media while behind the wheel, some of them even use the hashtag #Ihopeidontcrash with their photos. Expressing that fear, even though it's disguised with a supposedly amusing hashtag, shows that these young drivers have an inkling as to how dangerous this practice could be.

On average, texting takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. says that at 55 mph, 4.6 seconds with your eyes on your cell phone is like driving an entire football field blindfolded.

Distracted driving falls into three main categories:

  • manual: taking your hands off of the wheel
  • visual: taking your eyes on the road
  • or cognitive: not being mentally present while driving.

Distracted driving laws vary by state, but many have a law in place that bans drivers from using handheld phones. In addition, most states ban bus drivers and beginner drivers from all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free), and enforce a ban on texting for all drivers.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

3 Steps to Follow When You Are Injured or in an Accident

The legal process involved in filing a personal injury lawsuit may deter some people from seeking damages regardless of the severity of their injury, but, having an idea of what you can expect at each stage of the process can help you determine if legal action is the appropriate route to take in your particular situation. An experienced personal injury attorney can counsel you as your case develops, and fight for your rights in the courtroom if necessary in order to achieve the outcome that's most favorable to you.

Regardless of how you were injured, there are certain steps that everyone who is in an accident or has been injured in some other way should take if they think they may have a personal injury lawsuit. The tips below provide an outline of what to keep in mind in the days, weeks and even months following your injury to ensure your potential personal injury claim is on solid legal ground.

A variety of situations can lead to injury, such as a slip/trip and fall, a car accident, a defective product, or a dog bite, among many others things. Following the suggestions below can help protect your right to file a claim for your injury in the near future, and will likely allow the filing process to run more smoothly than if you don't take these early preparations.

Put everything in writing.

Take notes on all the details of your injury. These don't have to be formal statements, just jotting down everything you can remember about the circumstances immediately before, during and after your injury can be a big help when it comes to filing your claim and jogging your memory. This sort of anticipatory preparation could mean the difference between your claim being invalid and you collecting all of the benefits to which you are entitled. It's even important to write down the conversations you had with others who may have been involved in the accident or injury claim, even if they were just a witness. Make sure that your physician or the hospital you visit for your injury notes the circumstances surrounding your injury in their records.

Take photographs.

If possible, take pictures of your injuries and the scene of the accident as soon as you can following an accident or injury. Focus on any visible cuts, bruises, burns, swelling or other marks on your body. Don't just take one picture, make sure you capture the injury and the scene from a variety of angles. This approach will hopefully result in some detailed pictures you can later present to the insurance company as evidence supporting your claim.

Obtain copies of your medical records.

Medical records can be an integral part of your claim, and have the power to make or break your case. Whether your medical records just serve to help you seek medical treatment from a specialist or if you need them to support your claim that your injuries were in fact caused by this accident and not a pre-existing condition, it's important to contact your physician and get copies of all records that may be pertinent to your case.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bringing a Claim for Injuries When the Accident Was Partly Your Fault

In order to prevail in a personal injury case, you must be able to prove that your injuries were directly caused by the negligent actions of another. If you can prove that your injuries were at least partly caused by another, you may be able to receive compensation for your medical expenses, physical and emotional pain and suffering, permanent physical impairment or disfigurement, lost income, decreased earning capacity, property damage, or other economic losses.

If you have been injured in an accident, you may be entitled to recover compensation from anyone else who partially caused the accident, even if the accident was partly your own fault. The legal theories of “contributory negligence” and “comparative negligence” apply in cases where the plaintiff in a lawsuit was partially responsible for his or her own injuries.

“Contributory negligence” means the injured person’s actions, at least to some extent caused his or her own injuries. For example, someone who ignores a “Caution: Wet Floor” sign and subsequently slips and falls may be deemed to have been careless and, thus, at fault for his or her injuries. As such, contributory negligence can prevent the injured person from recovering any compensation, even when his or her carelessness was minor as compared to the fault of the other party. In some states, accident victims are entitled to recover compensation only if they can prove that the other party’s fault was greater.

In some jurisdictions, the concept of contributory negligence has fallen out of favor and is no longer applied. Instead, it has been replaced with the concept of “comparative negligence.” Comparative negligence means that the fault for causing an accident is compared among all parties, typically broken down as a percentage of fault attributed to each party. When this occurs, the monetary recovery awarded to the injured plaintiff is reduced by his or her percentage of fault. For example, if you were injured in a car accident that was determined to be 25% your fault, your monetary recovery from the other driver’s insurance company would be limited to 75% of the amount of your damages from the accident, an amount equal to that driver’s percentage of fault for causing the accident. By applying the concept of comparative negligence, each party is held accountable only for his or her percentage of fault for causing the injuries.

You may be deemed to be partially at fault for your injuries if you have failed to act with reasonably prudent care under the circumstances of the accident, or if you voluntarily assume a portion of the risk by exposing yourself to danger, such as by failing to use the available restraints on an amusement park ride or ignoring a posted warning sign.

The total value of your claim is based on many factors, including how easily fault can be apportioned among the parties, the seriousness of your injuries, medical treatments received and insurance coverage limits. Once the claim’s total value is established and the percentages are applied, a final figure for the injured plaintiff’s compensation can be determined.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Recovering Damages for a Dog Bite: Do I have a case?

While dogs are fondly referred to as “man’s best friend”, not all are friendly and each year thousands of people across the United States are injured by dog bites. If you’ve suffered an injury as a result of a dog attack, you’ve probably wondered whether you should bring a lawsuit to collect damages. The success of your case likely depends on the following:

State Statutes
Each state has its own set of laws when it comes to dog owner liability. Some are very strict, holding the owner liable for all damages resulting from a bite or attack by the dog on another person, domestic animal or property. In others, you may only be able to bring suit if the owner knew or should have known that the dog was a danger or "had vicious propensities."

Location of the Attack
If you were attacked in a public place or on your own property, you may have a better chance of collecting damages than if you were on the owner’s property where they could reasonably argue that you were trespassing.

Was the Dog Provoked?
If the owner can prove that you provoked the dog prior to the attack, you may not be able to collect for damages. For instance, if you threatened the dog’s owner by yelling or engaging in a physical assault, or if you went to take a bone that the dog was carrying, you may not have a basis for your claim because the dog’s action could be expected as a way to protect the owner or his “property.”

As with any injury, it’s absolutely essential that you have evidence of the bodily harm. Were there witnesses who saw the attack? Did you file a police report? Take photos and keep a copy of the medical report? All of this evidence is necessary to prove liability and help to prove why you are entitled to receive compensation.

In many cases, a dog owner’s homeowners insurance will cover some or all of the damages. In instances where insurance isn’t available and the dog’s owner does not have the means to pay for the damages, there may be a third party such as the landlord who allowed a dangerous animal to reside on their property who can be held liable. A qualified personal injury attorney can help you better understand local statutes, your rights as an injured party and protect your best interests to make sure you receive just compensation for your injury and suffering.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Choosing a Litigation Attorney

If circumstances have required you to get involved in litigation, you may find the process of selecting an attorney to be overwhelming.  There are, however, some steps you can take to make the selection process a bit easier.

First, you should consider hiring someone who specializes in your type of case. If you had an automobile accident, consider hiring an attorney who exclusively practices personal injury law and preferably one with a track record of success in car accident cases. If you were wrongfully fired, hire a litigator with experience in employment rights.

Since you and the attorney you choose will be working very closely together, it’s important to choose someone with whom you feel comfortable.   How long has the attorney been practicing law? Has the attorney ever handled a case like yours before? What was the outcome? How much are fees and how are they paid? Does the attorney seem like he or she is concerned about your case? Does the attorney seem knowledgeable about the area of law?   Does the attorney articulate himself clearly and effectively?  Does he have a credible and trustworthy demeanor?  Remember, a judge or jury may be making the same assessments down the line.   

With respect to fees, most attorneys will take a personal injury case on a contingency basis, meaning that you only pay if they succeed, typically about one-third of the judgment or settlement amount.  You may be able to negotiate the percentage, especially if your damages are significant and your case against the potential defendant strong.  In addition to contingency fee structure, you should also be aware that many attorneys will bill for “out of pocket expenses” such as $0.25 per page for photocopies, $1.00 per page for faxes and cost of hiring experts and consultants.  Again, depending on the strength of your case, you may be able to negotiate these terms.  If you’re involved in a commercial or contract dispute, most such cases are billed on an hourly basis.  If you’re a plaintiff, a hybrid fee structure whereby you would pay a lower hourly fee but provide the lawyer with a percentage of the settlement may be an interesting option.

It’s also a good idea to find out how long the attorney believes the case will take. Obviously, many factors are beyond your attorney’s control, but you should be able to determine a general timeline and what type of resources the attorney will commit to your case.   It’s also important to know how you will be kept updated throughout the proceeding. It can be very frustrating if your attorney does not keep you informed on the status of your case. Ask the attorney how he or she plans to communicate with you and how often you can expect a status report.

Choosing an attorney is a big decision. Before you decide to choose one based on the number of television commercials he or she runs, or the size of the yellow pages ad the firm maintains, it’s important to sit down with the attorney to make sure the relationship is the right fit for your case.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mediating Personal Injury Lawsuits

Personal injury cases run the gamut from slip-and-fall accidents to auto wrecks. Insurance companies are often involved, and most parties generally want to resolve cases as economically as possible. Mediation is one option to accomplish this.

Mediation is a form of alternate dispute resolution (ADR), in which the parties voluntarily agree to work with an independent third party – a mediator – to resolve their disputes. Unlike a court trial where one party is the “winner” and the other party is the “loser,” mediation involves finding a workable solution to which all parties can agree. A mediated settlement is formalized with a legally binding contract signed by all parties.

Mediation is a non-binding procedure, meaning that no party can be forced to consent to an agreement. The mediator does not have the decision-making authority that a jury, judge or arbitrator has. Even if the parties previously agreed to mediate their dispute, any party is free to walk away from the process and pursue the matter in the courts.

Mediation also affords the parties a level of confidentiality that is not available in court cases. Parties cannot be forced to disclose information. If a party opts to make admissions or disclose confidential information, those statements or information cannot be introduced in court or otherwise used outside the scope of the mediation itself. This confidentiality enables the parties to freely and productively negotiate their dispute.

Unlike court trials or arbitration hearings, which are determined based on the underlying facts of the incident and the applicable laws, mediation allows parties to make agreements based on their own interests. The parties are free to allow their choices to be guided by business interests or personal preferences. When the dialogue within a mediation is focused on each party’s true interests, a mutually satisfying result is often possible.

Parties to a personal injury dispute often choose to mediate the case to avoid a trial involving significant attorney’s fees and other costs and an uncertain outcome. When both sides are faced with uncertainties regarding the outcome, a mediated settlement agreement can be a good solution. Furthermore, taking a case to trial can take months or years and usually results in at least one party being unhappy with the outcome.

In mediating a personal injury case, the parties and their lawyers work with the mediator to devise a settlement that everyone can live with. Plaintiffs can be compensated for their property damage, medical costs, lost income, and pain and suffering. On the other hand, defendants and their insurance companies can end up paying far less than it would have spent in legal fees and costs to defend the case at trial, and a potential sizable jury award. A good mediator will help all parties see the strengths and weaknesses in their respective cases, enabling them to compromise and arrive at a result which is acceptable to both.

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Richard F. Silber is admitted to practice in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. From his office in Georgetown, he and his legal team assist clients throughout the Washington metropolitan area.

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3221 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
| Phone: 202-338-0687

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